Minor League News: Contreras, Norton, Henson

(Rick Stewart/Getty)
Drew Henson is back with the Yankees. (Rick Stewart/Getty)

Got a handful of minor league updates for you, mostly coaching stuff. Everything comes from Josh Norris.

  • Nardi Contreras is now a senior pitching instructor. We heard he was reassigned and replaced by Gil Patterson back in November. Going from minor league pitching coordinator to senior pitching instructor sounds like a promotion, no? Who knows.
  • Tim Norton and Drew Henson will serve as the pitching and hitting coaches, respectively, for the club’s new second Rookie Level Gulf Coast League affiliate. Norton, a former righty reliever, started to make the transition to coaching last year due to continued arm problems. Henson re-joined the organization as a part-time assistant last fall with his eye on becoming a full-time coach this year.
  • Remember RHP J.B. Cox and 3B Bradley Suttle? Well, both guys are listed in the Yankees’ 2013 media guide as players. Norris confirmed they are both still on the restricted list however, meaning they are unlikely to resume their playing career. False alarm. Cox never regained his stuff following Tommy John surgery while Suttle was hampered by multiple injuries, most notably right shoulder surgery. The former left the organization following 2010, the latter last spring.
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Minor Matters: Cox, Warren Brackman

Your regularly scheduled DotF will be a little late tonight, so I’ll leave you some links to hold you over…

  • J.B. Cox is back. He struggled mightily after undergoing Tommy John surgery during the 2006-2007 offseason, and basically packed his bags and headed home to Texas last June to think about his future in baseball. Hopefully the time off rejuvenated his arm a bit and he can get back to being the strikeout/ground ball relief monster he was in 2006. It’s good to see J.B. back, he was always a personal fave.
  • Cox was assigned to High-A Tampa, taking the place of Adam Warren, who was placed on the 7-day disabled list. Apparently it’s nothing serious, more of an innings control kind of thing. He’s only scheduled to miss one start.
  • Andrew Brackman was reportedly sitting at 93 last night, touching 96 with his fastball. He’s also added a power slider to his repertoire, which registered as high as 87 yesterday. Kevin Goldstein backs those reports up (sub. req’d): “He’s been throwing an almost shocking number of strikes all season (7 BB in 55 IP), but his stuff is getting better and better, as the Yankees have put considerable work into nearly every aspect of his game and the results are finally showing up.  With a fastball suddenly getting up to 96 mph, two distinct breaking balls and a changeup, Brackman has allowed six runs over 29 innings in his last five starts while whiffing 34, and he’s back on the prospect map.”

The Yankees knew Brackman was going to be a long-term project when they drafted him in 2007, especially with Tommy John surgery on the immediate horizon. Now that he’s 20 or so months out from surgery, Brackman’s starting to come around and show everyone why he was so highly touted in the first place. It’s all about patience, people. If you don’t have any, don’t follow prospects.

Checking in on Brackman, Cox, Sanchez, Melancon

If you keep up with the Yanks minor league system, you’re probably up to date on the group of pitchers coming off elbow surgery. In case you’re not, Lisa Winston has an update at the official site on Andrew Brackman, Humberto Sanchez, Mark Melancon, and J.B. Cox.

First up, Mark Newman talks up Brackman and Cox.

On Brackman:

“His velocity was between 94-97 [mph], so he had no problems and he’s ready to go for Major League camp,” said Mark Newman, the Yankees’ senior vice president of baseball operations. “His stuff is outstanding, and he’s getting a feel for his delivery and throwing strikes. But first and foremost, he was healthy and, at times, dominant.”

“The benefits are the power and deception because the ball is released closer to the plate,” Newman explained. “But the downside is you have long levers to manage, and it takes time. There aren’t many of those guys in the environment to use as test cases, but most people believe that taller guys take a little longer to get their command.”

I’m stoked to watch Brackman work through the season. He hasn’t pitched a season nearly as long as that of High-A Tampa, which is where Mike thinks he’ll start out. I’m guessing he’ll throw something around 100 innings before shutting it down.

Bonus: The Yanks beat some long odds in drafting Brackman.

On Cox:

“He’s fine,” Newman said. “He’s just been out for a year and got to the point in terms of his innings where we didn’t want to overload him. We consider those guys ‘rehabs’ for a full year.”

What I find strangest about Cox is that no team took him in the Rule 5 draft. The Padres took freaking Ian Nova. He’s two years out of elbow surgery, so there aren’t any excuses this year. Here’s to a healthy 2008 for J. Brent.

Humberto Sanchez on himself:

“I feel pretty good, but honestly, I forgot what 100 percent feels like,” he joked from Arizona, where he was enjoying a few hours off watching his beloved New York Giants. “I feel as good as I can going into Spring Training, and being out here has helped a lot. Along with the conditioning and fitness work, we’ve also been doing what we call ‘prehab’ to try to prevent injuries.”

Humberto was pretty damn terrible in the AzFL. He issued 11 walks, gave up 21 hits, and allowed 16 earned runs in just 12 innings. Oh yeah, and just four strikeouts. He has plenty to prove this year. It looks like the Yanks have already moved him to the bullpen, but I think you have to give him this one last chance to head into the season as a starter.

On Melancon:

Winston provided no quotes on Mark Melancon, but she paid him a higher compliment. After rattling off his ridiculously awesome 2008 stats, she says this of the righty reliever:

But whether he starts the spring in New York or in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Melancon is probably the Yankees’ most promising heir to the throne of Mariano Rivera, both thanks to his stuff and his mound makeup.

Damn. Most promising heir to Mo. Talk about setting expectations high. Not that she’s wrong. Of all the relievers on the farm, Melancon is the most poised to make an impact. But the heir to Mo? Damn. Is that even possible to live up to?

Couple of minor promotions

With Jon Alabaladejo’s and Chris Britton’s promotions to the major league team, Scranton needed another bullpen arm. Steven Jackson got the nod. He’s struck out 18 and walked three in 16 innings for Trenton. It appears the Yanks want to see what the 26-year-old can do at a higher level. David Robertson, three years Jackson’s junior, will get his chance in due time.

To take Jackson’s place at AA, J.B. Cox has been promoted. Happy day.

Cox returns to game action

Via Chad Jennings, JB Cox returned to game action Tuesday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery, throwing fastballs and sliders (no changeups) in a minor league game. Cox will give it another go on Friday, and said he expects to start the year with High-A Tampa before heading up to Triple-A Scranton when the weather warms up. Oh boy, the kids are gettin’ healthy.

Rehab Guys: What Can We Expect?

Over the last 18 months or so, some of the Yanks very best pitching prospects went down with major arm injuries. It was frustrating and almost laughable at how many quality arms went down with Tommy John surgery, but at the same time it’s a testament to the kind of pitching depth the organization has when they can lose that many guys still have arms like Hughes, Joba, IPK, Tyler Clippard and Ross Ohlendorf make contributions at the Major League level.

A popular comment amongst…uh, commentors is that “Player X [who went down with a major injury in 2007] will be ready to help the bullpen by midseason,” and you know what? That statement is completely wrong. Pitchers have to relearn their mechanics and find their control after such a long layoff, and that process can be painstaking at times. Guys who rely on command and control need even more time to get things back to once they were.

Just like Brian Cashman, I can’t predict the future, so the info presented here is basically just my best educated guess, if that makes sense. We’re all hoping these guys get healthy and dominate in 2008, but in reality we should hope that they just finish the year strong. Fun starts after the jump.

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Update on JB Cox

Pete Abraham is reporting that it’s not Tommy John surgery, contrary to what I said earlier. From Pete:

It was not Tommy John surgery as some sites have reported. Brian Cashman said that Cox had a ligament repaired but not replaced, which is what Tommy John surgery is.

This is less invasive surgery and Cox may not necessarily miss the entire season.

Some sites? Who’s he talkin’ bout?

Anyways, anytime a pitcher has the ligament of his pitching elbow tinkered with, it’s not good. Essentially, this delays Cox’s arrival in the Bronx by 2 years. First there’s the initial time missed with the healing and rehab process, then there’s the time he’ll need to refamiliarize himself with the whole act of pitching;Â pitchers who have elbow surgery return to the mound with notoriously bad control. It’s just part of the package.

Then, once he’s actually in game form, the Yanks will probably take it easy and send him to High-A Tampa for a warm up, then bump him up to Double-A Trenton to basically get himself back to where he was at the end of 2006. It’s not until then that he can begin to progress in his development.

Instead of debuting in mid-2007, he’s looking at late-2008 at the earliest.

In happier news, I found the greatest picture in the history of the world:

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